RELEASE DATE: APRIL 30, 2013
This has been a good year for theology-focused hip-hop. With releases from veteran emcees shai linne, The Collective, and Evangel already, it’s hard to believe there could be anymore releases of the same caliber. Enter Benjamin the Esquire. Ben is an emcee who has popped-up here and there throughout some of Christcentric’s albums over the years, but never has he released a full-length album. Instead, he has been busy being a family man and practicing what he preaches on his debut album, Lyrical Catechism. I would even argue that he may have taken all this time to master his craft because when it comes to wordplay, Ben is on point.
Lyrical Catechism is based on the popular Westminster Shorter Catechism, a theme I have never heard put to music, let alone, hip-hop. He covers topics such as, the chief end of man (“The Chief End), the character of God (“What is God”), the fall of man (“Sin and Misery”), and the offices of Christ (Prophet, Priest, & King”). The topics may not be revolutionary, but I do not think they are meant to be. Ben starts the album off by explaining that the practice of catechizing has been going on long before us (“Standing Tall on Their Shoulders”) so it’s no surprise that the song topics are generally familiar; Although, the verbal applause on “A Mother’s Interlude” and the explanation of “The Esquire” stood out as a fresh ideas.
While listening to Lyrical Catechism, it seemed to me there were two goals set by Benjamin the Esquire (three, if we count exalting Christ which we will assume is a given). The first, I believe is to take some of the questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism and answer them in song form. This is clear on songs such as, “The Final Word,” “He Goes Way Back,” and “The Chief End.” I think the second goal for Ben, is to encourage the listener to take up the practice of catechizing their families, and more specifically, their children.
One of the biggest surprises for me on this album was the level of lyricism and wordplay. He came out sounding hungry, like he had something to prove. That type of hunger is rare in CHH. It definitely increases the replay value trying to catch all of the little nuances of the skill.
The only place the album lacked for me was in some of the production. For the most part, the throw-back, classic, hip-hop feel really worked for the album. There were, however, a few exceptions such as, “A Mother’s Interlude.” The slow, awkward piano loop made getting through the song pretty tough. I really enjoyed the content but the beat makes this a song I often skip. The production as a whole is not bad by any means, but it is easily outshined by Ben’s delivery.
For a debut album, Lyrical Catechism is pretty impressive. Benjamin the Esquire offers something worth checking out for fans of theology-focused hip-hop, witty wordplay, and that classic boom-bap vibe.